Regular Session Ends, Special Session Begins
Monday, June 1st, at 6:00 pm, the Louisiana Legislature adjourned sine die, as required by the state Constitution. The session was truly unprecedented, as lawmakers convened in early March only to suspend the session until May 4th due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Moments after adjourning the regular session, lawmakers entered into a 30-day special session where they defined the scope of the agenda – primarily to finish work on the $30 billion-plus spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, as well as to consider other measures to continue to help struggling employers and workers.
The special session must end no later than 6:00 pm on June 30th. See below for details on the major takeaways from the 2020 regular session.
Comprehensive Legal Reform Bill Heads to the Governor’s Desk
In the final moments of the regular legislative session, Sen. Kirk Talbot’s SB 418, the Omnibus Premium Reduction Act, received a final vote and is now on Governor John Bel Edwards’ desk to be signed, vetoed, or allowed to become law without his signature within ten days.
Specifically, this bill will:
• Lower Louisiana’s jury trial threshold from $50,000 to $10,000 for personal injury cases
• Reform the collateral source rule
• Reform the direct action statute
• Extend the prescriptions for tort actions from one year to two years for motor vehicle accidents
• Eliminate the seat belt gag order
• Require a 10% rate reduction for both personal and commercial auto insurance
In the rush of the final hour of the session, a drafting error was made in the bill that could significantly affect the required rate reductions.
Legislative leadership is committed to passing a bill in this new special session that will correct this language to restore the bill to the best possible form to reform the legal system and lower rates.
Bills Aimed at Improving Louisiana’s Legal Climate Await Action by the Governor
In addition to Sen. Talbot’s Omnibus Legal Reform bill, several other legal reform measures aimed at promoting fairness in our judicial system and improving Louisiana’s legal climate passed both chambers and now head to the governor’s desk for approval.
SB 395 by Sen. Heather Cloud (R-Turkey Creek) seeks to rein in attorney advertising by declaring false or misleading ads in which a plaintiff claims a windfall but does not disclose the amount deducted for attorney fees and court costs. It passed the House by a vote of 78-23 and the Senate concurred in House amendments by a vote of 37-0.
HB 313 by Rep. Thomas Pressly (R-Shreveport) would clarify the bounds of liability for business organizations in Louisiana by legislatively repealing the single business enterprise theory of liability and restricting the ability of courts to impose liability on business organizations based on common business practices conducted by groups of related business entities. This bill is critical for the protection of small businesses. It passed the House by a vote of 92-1 and the Senate by a vote of 26-8.
HB 597 by Rep. Richard Nelson (R-Mandeville) removes a judge-created legal presumption that if signed by the governor would require a plaintiff to actually prove all the elements of his case. This bill will promote fairness in our judicial system by prohibiting the presumption of causation of injuries. It passed the Senate by a vote of 22-13. The House concurred in the Senate amendments by a vote of 68-23.
Bills on the Governor’s Desk to Provide Employers with Limited Liability Protection for COVID-19
In addition to comprehensive legal reform, lawmakers passed several bills that would provide relief and reassurance to businesses operating amidst the COVID-19 crisis. These bills now await action by the Governor.
SB 435 by Sen. Mark Abraham (R-Lake Charles) would provide limited liability protection for COVID-19 exposure to individuals and entities, including local or state government, that follow government standards and guidance during a state of emergency. The conference committee report was adopted by a vote of 92-0 in the House and 34-1 in the Senate.
HB 826 by Rep. Thomas Pressly (R-Shreveport) seeks to ensure that liability protections are in place for individuals and local or state government that has operated in accordance with public health guidelines during the COVID-19 crisis. The conference committee report was adopted by a vote of 93-0 in the House and 36-0 in the Senate Monday.
On a 99-0 vote, the full House also finally passed SB 491 by Sen. Hewitt, which limits liability for those providing relief or recovery equipment or services during the COVID-19 emergency.
SB 508 by Sen. Patrick McMath (R-Covington), which limits liability for Louisiana restaurants that comply with official guidance, passed the House by a 94-0 vote, and the Senate concurred in the amendments.
All of these bills on the Governor’s desk are subject to veto. IIABL will provide additional information as it becomes available as to which bills finally become law and if any of these important bills are vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards.